One of the interesting - and sometimes frustrating - things about producing a farm-to-needle yarn is that you must change your expectations from a modern, on-demand culture to one that is dictated by nature and time. With our usual yarn, we can get any base as needed throughout the year from our mill in the UK. When procuring and producing local yarn on a small scale, we become very familiar with when sheep are sheared and how long all the downstream activities, like washing, carding, and spinning will take. For our 2017 round of Smitten, we used back stock Finn fiber from our friends at Iron Wheel Farm and dug through 150 pounds of alpaca fleece with the help of The Alpaca Barbers, Katie and Matt Goff, to find just the right ones for our new yarn. We then hauled it all that fluff up to Stonehedge Mill in East Jordan last February and it was all done and available in August, 2017. This is a normal turnaround time for this popular mill, and it was worth the wait a thousand times over.
Photo courtesy of Iron Wheel Farms
In 2018, Why Knot Fibers will be offering 3 lines of yarn that are produced fully in Michigan or the Great Lakes region. It is only January, so lambing has not started but we are at work with our farmers determining how much fiber will be available and also connecting with other farmers who may have as yet unprocessed fleece. We sent out a relatively small - around 50 pounds - batch of fiber to the mill this week to give us enough Smitten DK to tide us all over until the 2018 shearing season is complete! If you want to follow along with the shearing and lambing, check out Iron Wheel Farms on instagram. They are expecting 80 lambs this year… so if you wanna raise your own sheep, you can!
Kat saying "Look at that staple length!"
At a recent fiber fest, we talked with Hidden Valley Farm’s Carol and ogled her fleeces - as we do - and discovered a new-to-us breed of sheep and it’s fiber, called Coopworth. The fleece was so lovely that we bought what they had on hand right there! This discovery inspired us to produce a second line of locally-sourced yarn, called unSalted. A 50/50 blend of Coopworth and Alpaca in a worsted weight from farms in Wisconsin and Michigan, the first mini batch of unSalted heads to the mill this week! As soon as we get the details just right, we will offer this yarn for sale, so stay tuned.
Also new this year, we now carry Freshwater Fiber, from the Michigan Fiber Cooperative, dyed in the same Michigan-inspired color pallet as our Smitten yarn. This yarn is just lovely! A blend of 50/50 Michigan raised merino/alpaca, its beauty is not fully appreciated until you knit with it. Luxuriously buttery and smooth, it is a treat to knit with and a treat to wear. So far, we have made baby sweaters, colorwork hats and Christina is working on mukluks - her feet will be so happy! Find out more about this yarn and how it is produced on the Michigan Fiber Cooperative website here.
We are excited to be back in the studio and playing with the last of our 2017 harvested natural dye products - Hopi sunflower, a little bit of coreopsis and some black walnut! - and planning the dye garden and placing our seed orders. In the middle of a cold, snowy winter this is an especially enjoyable task!
Stay tuned because we will be sharing updates of the Farm-to-Needle process of Smitten and unSalted!
The nature of small-scale farm-to-needle products means that the quantities we produce are limited. If you want to be sure you get yours, we recommend pre-ordering now. When you preorder, you can select what quantities and colors you want, and we will confirm your order before we dye it. We do have some remaining 2017 Smitten yarn in both fingering and DK weights, so snap them up before they are gone!